The cold light of living creatures from fireflies to deep-sea fishes has provided science with new tools to track body processes and the progress of disease.
Beginning with a general explanation of luminescence in animals and the discovery of the chemicals luciferase and luciferin that animals use to give off light, researcher Zimmer goes on to introduce some of the animals that use the light they produce to find prey, communicate, and defend themselves. There’s a whole chapter on fireflies as “model organisms” frequently studied as representative of bioluminescent creatures. After a chapter on the use of bioluminescent chemicals in science, the author goes on to consider biofluorescence: the emission of received light at a lower-energy color. Mantis shrimp and crystal jellyfish are the example animals here. The green fluorescent protein genes that make biofluorescence possible can be transferred into other organisms for a wide variety of scientific and medical uses. The author is a working and teaching scientist; his explanations are complex but clear enough for an interested student. Boxed information on related topics and interesting examples appear throughout the text, along with plentiful illustrations, mostly photographs.
A comprehensive introduction to biofluorescence and bioluminescence by an expert in the field. (Nonfiction. 12-18)